Malone, Bross take different roads to collegiate hoops careers

Both Falls' players make commitments

April 29, 2012

In essence, 6-1 Menomonee Falls senior basketball guard C.J. Malone had been preparing his whole life for the opportunity to play in college, shooting hundreds of shots a day, going to many camps and making himself adept at both the point or shooting guard position either of which he might play when he reached the next level.

It's his love, his passion.

His dream came true recently, when he signed a tender to play for NAIA Division II power Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa.

"I always thought I'd go to college," said the prospective criminal justice or sports science major, "and I'm going to give as much to it as I've given to basketball. It (basketball) is something I love to do, but the idea of college just became a more and more important goal in my life."

When pressed by family and friends, he said he would like to carry at least a 3.2 to 3.4 grade-point average when he finishes up with school.

Novice of the game

Meanwhile, 7-2 Indians teammate Ryan Bross, who most people would think just looking has played basketball his whole life, just took up the sport 18 months ago and though he was not a huge contributor to the Falls team this winter, there was enough interest in his tall, muscular frame that NCAA Division I UW-Green Bay offered him preferred walk-on status.

In terms of basketball, Bross admits he's like a small child with a new toy that he loves to pieces.

"I ask people, when they watch me play, have you ever seen a baby just come out of the womb?" he said. "That was me 18 months ago. Now I think I look like a toddler. I'm picking up things everyday. People always ask me how much better do I think I've gotten (in terms of a percentage) and I just laugh and say '3,000 percent.' "

And Bross, who played football with his older (and only slightly shorter) brother, Tyler, up until two years ago, is also looking forward to having basketball help pave his way to bigger and better things in life.

The erudite individual talked at length about his desire to major in human biology and environmental science with the idea of going into medicine as a career.

"I want to be a doctor and make a difference in people's lives," he said.

Both Malone and Bross played with all-stater and North Carolina recruit J.P. Tokoto at Falls but now they're getting a chance to step out on their own.

Malone will leave school with records in total 3-pointers (116) and career free-throw percentage (85 percent).

"This is what hard work and determination gets you," Indians coach Dan Leffel said.

And to prove that point, at Malone's press conference-like signing event on April 25, (Bross's was the day before), he was asked what part of his game will improve the most when he returns next summer for open gyms, he didn't hesitate.

"It'll be my defense," he said confidently.

The Saints (named for St. Bernard's, the large Alpine breed of dog), play an up-tempo brand of ball which suits Malone just fine. The Indians played that way for much of Malone's tenure at Falls. Malone had also received interest from several state Division 3 schools as well as junior colleges in Kansas, North Carolina and California.

He is one of an 11-member recruiting class for Ashford, which turned in a 20-11 record last season.

"At first, I was kind of iffy about it," Malone said of the school. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to an out-of-state university or not, but then I went there and I liked the campus. I also played in an open gym and I jelled really well with the other guard (who's returning this fall). It felt good."

Staying close to home

Bross' story is also interesting. Despite his inexperience, he got fairly substantial interest from Creighton, Illinois-Chicago and California-Davis, even received a scholarship offer from Wyoming and got mail from major conference powers like Georgetown and Mississippi State.

"But I wanted to stay close to home," Bross said, "and once I got there (to Green Bay) I got to know some of the players and I liked the coaches a lot. It was more of a family atmosphere than some of the other places, which were just all about the basketball."

"Here, they were interested in taking care of me and helping me get better."

Bross said the Phoenix have a couple of nice big men (7-1 and 6-10, respectively) right now, and he's looking forward to learning from them as best as possible. He will redshirt his first year to help accelerate that process and in the interim work hard on his strength and conditioning as well as his shooting and his footwork.

"I'm just learning more basketball as I go," he said.

And he said he's doing this not because he has to, but because he wants to.

"People also ask me 'Did they force you to play basketball? (because he is so tall),' " he said, "and I can honestly answer 'No', I'm actually having fun. I tried it and I fell in love with it."

A love affair that will continue for both he and Malone.

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